14 Mark of an angel

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I

‘Uh-huh, close fitting suit and acrylic gloves, Miss Daniels,’ observed Mandy Hamilton, the estranged wife. ‘I remember those nights well. Don’t know how I can help you, we’ve been apart two years.’

‘You run the show. Here’s something which might interest you.’ Jenny B took out the top paper, then the second and handed them across. ‘Ronald Hamilton bought them for his party on the 14th last, but you paid.’ She handed over a further sheet.

‘You love living dangerously, don’t you. Get to the point, Ms Daniels.’

‘Do you know the Indie Enquirer?’

‘That rag.’

‘Yes and they want to stay in business. What though if a similar type of rag was set up as if it was the new yellow press but in fact it was only funded for one issue? Everything closes down after they’ve printed the lot.’

‘What lot?’

‘Oh, these.’ She reached in and pulled out the manilla envelope, handing it across. ‘I know you were young, you needed the money.’

‘And here was the guest list for one of those evenings.’ She handed that over. ‘Interesting, eh?’

‘You little bitch.’

‘You have a project in the pipeline, you’re an upstanding citizen for charity. Society admires you.’

‘You won’t get out of here alive, bitch.’

‘Yes I will.’ She opened her suit and there was the microphone bud. She removed it and placed it on the desk in front of the woman. ‘I want your ex husband off my sister’s back, as of now. You can do that, can’t you?’

With that, she stood and as she approached the door, pulled a mask out of her holdall, the woman furiously pressing the floor buzzer to no avail.

Jenny opened the door, stepped over the two torpedoes and the dozen other staff, the gas poured through the door, she went out via the fire escape, removed the mask and some twenty-two minutes later, met her sister in a cafe in a nearby town, Lady Hamilton had collapsed on the welcome mat.

II

Five people were at or near the computer in the DI’s second house and Laura had brought up the news report onscreen.

‘Jennys A and B,’ asked Laura, ‘do either of you know anything about this?’

Onscreen was shot after shot of a man suspended in a harness under Blackfriar’s Bridge. He was alive and gesticulating, unlike a former banking man under that bridge. Maybe the same organization. Below him, dangling by a cord, was a Gladstone bag.

‘They say the bag was empty,’ she added.

‘They would,’ said Jenny A. ‘What a pity if copies reached Breitbart, Instapundit, Huffpost and a dozen others, plus two hundred bloggers in eight countries. Because those writers might ask where the contents of the Gladstone bag had got to – the documents and the photos everyone now has copies to.’

‘And,’ added Laura, ‘if shots of those documents also made their way to Facebook and Twitter before they could be taken down …’

‘Youtube too.’

‘OK,’ said Laura, ‘how about this one, girls?’  She brought up photos of Lady Hamilton’s staff, all with crosses etched into their foreheads, ‘you don’t feel that was a bit OTT?’

‘Gosh, whoever did that,’ said Jenny A,’ did it very lightly, just scratches. But it would still make anyone think twice about taking on the people who did it.’

‘It would, but it would also tip someone over the edge who need only hire a long range weapon. Even on a boat you’re not safe.’

‘We are. We’re good at that type of thing.’

‘I don’t know, here you are, legs crossed, sweet and demure, sipping on tea.’

‘We know. We’re angels.’

III

The Hamilton incident had not made any headlines and that stayed their hand but the Blackfriars suspension hit the fan all over the world. By the time the D notices and injunctions had descended, it was all about as private as a Ryan Giggs or Jeremy Clarkson injunction.

There was no mention of the girls and perhaps that would have helped them, had it been mentioned. Laura felt that some of those names were going to fork out big to hire the best to take care of the Jennys.

Miles’s patron phoned about the possibility of hiring her, still unaware they were in stereo but Miles explained she didn’t do hits anymore, only compromising and theatre. That’s what the patron had in mind. Miles promised to put it to her and get back by day end.

They were right there on the divan at that moment so he laid out the probable scenario. Laura was chafing at the bit too because that was precisely the sort of thing which had been her specialty. She asked if they’d take her along – could they have that long talk that had been mooted, somehow finding a way she could be useful.

Jenny B grinned, mainly because she thought Miles would say no if asked. However, something in Laura’s eye, the look she reserved for these occasions, told him to back off or it might create a situation.

‘Laura, it’s a qualified yes but you’re out of practice, out of condition, so am I – there are things you’d need to do …’

Laura killed that objection by insisting that she would of course do the required training – she was pretty fit, just not battle hardened.  In the third role of course, the one requiring diplomacy perhaps – she looked at the Jennys.

He phoned back. ‘That lunch invitation – very kind. When?’

‘Ah, good Miles, good.’ He gave details.

IV

It was getting on for a fortnight. The luncheon had been had, his patron disappointed Laura had not attended but when told there were three girls involved, not one, a grin had spread across his chubby face.

‘Not happy about that, are you Miles?’ he chuckled. ‘Dear wife one of them, eh? And the third?’

This was the moment. The girls had thought long and hard about it – it had been to their advantage earlier to be seen as one but now there might be menace in a known tag team. So they’d agreed to let Miles tell and now he did. ‘There’s a sister called Sarah. We call her Jenny A.’

‘Doesn’t ring a bell.’

‘The girls are twins.’

‘Well I’ll be.’ A grin spread across his face again. ‘That’s going to be expensive.’

‘You agreed to pay for two, the twins are one fee.’

‘Hmmmm, let’s see how they do, I might be in a good mood after it.’

There was a lot of negotiating, the patron wanted some of his key men in there, the girls wanted space to do their thing as well, Miles supplied details of some of their cases, the patron was impressed.

.o0o.

Diagrams were pored over, training would be all of two weeks. Miles put them straight on one thing. ‘I’m sure you know this, ladies, but while you were taking the Crown shilling, you had what the Russians call razresheniya or permission to kill. You don’t have that any more and anything you do can be a crime. This does not bother my patrons but it can come back on you. Plan it so that you do nothing but incapacitate.’

‘Did we not do that last time?’ He owned that. Then Jenny mentioned the obvious: ‘And how does your .600 Nitro and Laura’s M72 LAW fit into your definition of legal? We know you have them.’ They had him.

V

So, here was the night and people had moved to prearranged places. Miles would man the phones on his fastest launch – observers might have concluded he was being put out to pasture but no matter. Laura got round it by saying that the ‘mastermind’ had to remain in position, also the ‘main breadwinner’ – only the best butter from Laura. She was like a kid again.

There was an official dinner their patron was quite interested in. What he’d liked was their plan to do this a little bit more cleverly, not just wade in with the Tommy guns and blast away, it took the heat off him and got the job done at the same time, in no uncertain terms. Mind you, he said, he had to show cojones somewhere during the show, otherwise they’d think he’d gone soft.

Laura had sailed dangerously close by saying he was now not going to be seen just as a meathead – Miles had winced – but as a clever meathead. He’d bought that, he’d let her have that one.

This dinner was apparently a who’s who of the underworld – no one was to actually fire until fired upon – if it ever came to an investigation, that point had to be quite clear. Laura had again wanted to use the LAW and even the patron’s boys had smiled at that. Miles had suggested the Nitro would do the job. The boss was itching to try them all out, for as he continually pointed out, it had cost him deep in the purse. Which rather gave the game away as to where Miles and Laura had got them from.

It was the overkill everyone liked because overkill actually saves lives, it doesn’t create a general small arms bloodbath, difficult to clean up.

Plan was this – the map said the dinner was on the second floor of this lot’s HQ, not on any main drag but tucked away in a sidestreet. It all had to be done quickly, within fifteen minutes, so a fire engine was thought best – pull up, hole in the wall via Laura’s beloved rocket, fire ladder extended, everyone inside, patron’s men first, girls second, the torpedoes would obviously fire and be taken out, the suits who’d caused the patron trouble would be left tied there, all sorts of incriminating documents lying about on them, the women would be taken back down the ladder, enough money would be sent by mail on the Monday to the club to cover repairs.

The patron’s own men had their plexishields and suits, the girls didn’t need them, apart from vests and helmets.

VI

Those who love gunbattles were going to be disappointed. Sure, one of the high-ups tried to make it out the back door, pulled a gun and that was his last act on earth, his papers were left over his body but apart from him, it went off as expected and hoped for.

On the signal, Miles contacted Collins who’d been misdirected to be two blocks away and vehicles had been ‘inconveniently parked’ at either end of the street to help, just in case. The vehicles now conveniently removed themselves from the direction the DI would come, the two at the other end were left as observers.

.o0o.

Laura and the Jennies took a B&B for two nights, they got in some shopping at a local Arndale or whatever they called it now, no contact, there was no helicopter, they went by train, separately, to meet a runabout at a prearranged point, one of Miles’s employees.

VII

The boat pulled up alongside the launch, the ladder was dropped down, up came the three and into the wheelhouse, Miles gave each a hug in turn. Lunch was ready – cold cuts and salad, vino, torte for dessert, coffee.

The question of the money came up, Miles explained that it was not a good idea for the girls to be caught with that sort of money on them, it would be forthcoming and soon.

VIII

The DI was in good spirits. He’d nabbed three who’d not even been on his immediate list, plus the one who had, his own stocks were high in the department and now he had news for Miles.

‘Hamilton himself, plus eight of his Ring, his Ring mind, we never expected such a thing,’ Miles did not want to set him straight on this, ‘were headed for a stretch before the Word came down.’

‘Not convicted then?’

‘Come on Miles, get real. If that had happened, your own position on the boat and your mobile call would have been scrutinized, also where your women were that night.’

‘Ah.’

‘Just who do you think you’re dealing with here?’ But it was a gentle reminder. ‘Er … any plans for a repeat?’ asked Collins. ‘I could quite get to like this.’

‘You know there can’t be for months. Also, I’m not sure I like the girls involved – it was tough enough keeping them away from this one.’

‘You did keep them away from this one then?’

‘Oh most assuredly,’ he had to say.

‘The Daniels girls and Mrs. Forrester,’ he wrote down on his pad, ‘not involved in any way. Now, that lunch you were kind enough to offer. It’s coming up to that time and there’s a nice little place next to -’

‘I know, I know,’ accepted Miles.

IX

‘Have we done enough damage to the Ring do you think?’ asked Laura in one of their pillow talks.

‘Of course not. That’s just fantasyland.’

‘I want to put your mind at rest, Miles, babe. With my own projects, I planned them, carried them out, knowing Amelie implicitly, even down to where she’d be standing at critical moments – and though I like the modus operandi of the girls, very much so, it’s still fitting in with someone else’s agenda on my part. My sense of safety and my ego are too large for that … but particularly the sense of safety.’

‘Understood. And you want to do one of your own again.’

‘No you’re not listening – I said I wanted to put your mind at rest, that was no joke about having lost a yard – well I felt it to be sure, plus guns were never part of my milieu, mine was always drawing room stuff, intrigue. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do something like that again but look, Miles, I’m no gangster’s moll.’

‘Thanks, love.’

‘Now the Jennys – I love them as much as you, Miles but they’re enjoying the comfort zone of our place too much, except when we’re on a boat overnight and … well … it’s not doing either any good.  One Jenny’s an issue, as we three discussed, right, but two Jennys gets a bit … crowded.’

‘Jenny B had a word with me about it, she knows that, I’d have preferred she spoke with you. How do you feel about her doing shorebound work from your old shop boat if you don’t mind, she’d live aboard but of course move around doing projects for us.’

‘Fine. ‘Jenny A?’

‘That Dutch project?’

‘Jan, yes.’

X

It was the middle of summer when the first sign of major trouble from the continent came through to their busy but politically sleepy harbour.  There was always fishing quota trouble, the usual things in a fishing community, nothing like this though.

The man they called the Patron owned half the fleet, Miles owned a sizeable portion, they were certainly in cahoots, which had benefits – security, enough money, people got on with their jobs and their homelife. 

Jenny A was in The Hague with her beau, Miles had secured a few new customers, had lost a couple, his other enterprises were bearing fruit, Laura and he had got the thing down to a fine art – she ran day to day operations, he did the outside work and sometimes she did that part where a lady’s powers of persuasion were better.

Jenny B was still close to what she’d been doing before, but without shooting anyone, the two sisters phoned quite regularly but it wasn’t quite the same and Jenny B felt it. Had there been a Patron project going, he’d have let Jenny B go to it.

And now one appeared.

Someone had started scuttling their boats.  Apart from the cost of these boats, irrespective of  insurance, there was the loss of business, the skippers of those boats paid Miles the 5% they always had and if the boat was in dry dock for repair they paid nothing – this is how they did things. But those boats were those men’s livelihoods and without those livelihoods, they were in trouble.  The insurance money was never going to be enough, especially after a scuttling – they’d be lucky to get anything and whoever it was knew that.

It was partly the transition from the EU to the new Britain according to the Patron – the greedy ghouls had got in and monopolised things and as with all bureucracies, the Patron and Miles were forever getting reams of paperwork, plus ‘directives’ on how the regulations would now apply. The British PM had reneged while pretending he hadn’t.  Fishing waters was a messy topic.

Miles could understand if they’d hit Laura, the Jennys, or even him, they’d put their heads above the parapet, especially that last outrage … but this was hitting ordinary fishermen on the other side of the country to their actually disputed waters.  Why?  It was clearly a personal vendetta of some form and there was going to be nothing but trouble for what they suspected were the Dutch if this kept up.

It wasn’t as if the boats were more than 37% of his income – the Jennys themselves were not really part of the continental scene either – it did seem to be a vendetta or else the Patron and Miles were standing in the way of something.  For all they knew, it might even be the Chinese.

XI

For weeks nothing happened – and then something suddenly did.

Then nothing again.  Sporadic.

XII

By the time the third boat had been sunk, it was high time to have a conference of captains.

The Patron’s magnifi-launch came into harbour, was docked alongside, the guests came aboard by gangplank from the wharf, the Patron from his launch, Laura did them proud over lunch, Miles keeping glasses filled.

The Patron spoke first. ‘This seems Brussels or Amserdam to me.  We need beefed up security and it will cost. Off the top, someone in Holland seems most likely to me, my vote is this Jan, ambitious type. Someone among your crews are being offered big moolah, you need to sort it or else I will.’

‘Begging your pardon,’ spoke up one of the skippers, ‘it’s not as if we haven’t probed – I’m thinking if Miss Laura who’s already doing the collect now – well, if she comes on board and, say, gives the once over to the boats, not minding a bit of ribbing from the lads, she might pick up things they’d never tell a skipper.’

They all thought that a good idea – they didn’t hold with women on boats, they did not like her collecting and yet had to own she was pleasant enough and the crews had started to like her.

.o0o.

Pillow talk.

‘How high up on the suspect list am I?’ asked Laura.

‘Well, obviously high, just as I am.  Either of us could have reasons, mine probably economic, yours might be your continental connection.  I don’t think it’s so … but it’s not completely off the table, either idea.’

‘Miles, there are definitely crew members playing up to me, some things have been suggested that way, but also indirectly suggested, ways of making extra money.  I wrote those names down.’  She fished around in her purse and found the paper – name and ship.  ‘There’s a sexual element to this, Miles and it complicates things – you really are naive in some ways, I’m giving you this for free.  I could easily be taking a cut and earning way more than I am now … the sort of money I was on in my former work.’

‘All right … what about the sinkings?’

‘Miles,’ she turned over and looked at him, ‘I’ve been vaguely offered the whole fleet, in your place you understand, but not by those who could do that … unless they speak for someone else.  There’s something deeply corrupt going on among some of the boats, certain people have delved into my past and feel I’m a better bet than you, more corruptible, less efficient.  Do you understand what I’m saying here … you’re sitting on a potential goldmine which not even the Patron seems interested in exploiting … maybe small incremental returns do not draw heat. But there are those on those boats who think quite differently.’

‘All right, taken on board.’

XIII

It was 11 a.m. only four days later when the Vera May went down to the gunwhales, the crew took the dinghy and rowed for the shore. Miles called for a full manifest, the skipper brought the logs.

Both lodged reports at the nearest police station and signed them, Miles had a few surplus vessels just now so the skipper took over one of those. The second skippers’ meeting would now be at 4 p.m. today, on the launch.

Island 13 hereIsland 15 here

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